Elena visits Washington DC…
A Darker Reality is the third book in Anne Perry’s still young Elena Standish series, and I hope there are many more to come. Elena is the child of a British diplomat and his American wife, whose parents, Wyatt and Dorothy Baylor, are a wealthy and connected couple with a large estate just outside Washington DC. Elena grew up with her family in various European capitals, and the first two books in the series are set on the Continent, in the uncomfortable years preceding World War II. (See my review of the second book, A Question of Betrayal, here.) In A Darker Reality, however, she has journeyed with her parents to the United States for the celebration of the Baylor’s sixtieth wedding anniversary.
It’s Elena’s first trip to the US, and she welcomes the chance to further her budding career as a photographer, not least by documenting the fabulously attired guests at her grandparents’ upcoming party. But it turns out to be her shadow MI6 career that really matters when another guest is killed. Lila Worth, whom Elena had just met and really connected with, turns out to have been a fellow British agent. What follows is a story of conflicting loyalties as Elena’s grandfather is arrested for the murder, and she struggles to clear his name, while simultaneously being deeply disturbed by the right-wing “Free America” proclivities he shares with many of his friends and colleagues.
I found A Darker Reality to be a thoroughly enjoyable read that tackles the small-scale personal issues of dealing with family members with differing political views, and also the broader sympathetic attitudes of some Americans to the rise of Hitler and National Socialism in Germany. Both are oddly (and sadly) relevant today and Perry handles them well. I also enjoyed watching Elena mature as the book progresses. And although the action is set in America, we still get glimpses of familiar characters from the first two books, like Elena’s spy agency boss and colleagues, and her other grandfather, Lucas Standish, who just happens to be the retired, but still influential, former head of MI6. On the fun side, there’s a cameo appearance by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to savor. Finally, of course, there’s the intriguing Captain James Allenby, also, like Lila and Elena, a British agent. (There do seem to be an awful lot of MI6 folks wandering around DC in this book…) I wonder if we will see James again in the future – and hope we do.
I don’t give many five-star ratings, but I found A Darker Reality’s fictional mystery and historical background to be both equally impressive. So five-stars it is. And my thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for the advance review copy.